Questions From Readers
● What evidence is there that those spoken of at John 10:16 as “other sheep” are persons who will live on earth in God’s new order?—Italy.
The identity of the “other sheep” can be determined by considering the context in the light of other scriptures.
Jesus Christ said: “I am the fine shepherd, and I know my sheep and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I surrender my soul in behalf of the sheep. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.”—John 10:14-16.
These words reveal that Jesus views as his “sheep” only those who know his voice, that is, who recognize his authority over them as their shepherd. This makes it clear that the fold of “sheep” that Jesus contrasted with the “other sheep” could not have been the nation of Israel, for only a small remnant of that nation recognized Jesus Christ as their shepherd. Who, then, were the “sheep” of the fold that would form “one flock” with the “other sheep”? Would they be the Jewish disciples, whereas the “other sheep” would be the Gentiles who, in time, were accepted as anointed Christians? Though commentators of Christendom often present this explanation, it does not harmonize with other scriptures.
Back in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, all who accepted him as their shepherd came in line for membership in the heavenly kingdom. Jesus said to his disciples: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) At other times Jesus Christ referred to this “little flock” of disciples as his “brothers.” (Matt. 12:49; Mark 3:34; Luke 8:21; John 20:17) When, in time, Gentiles were accepted by God, anointed with his holy spirit and called to heavenly life, they also were “joint heirs with Christ,” his “brothers.” (Gal. 3:27-29; Rom. 8:17) Logically, then, the “other sheep” would be persons who are not his “brothers” but who are brought into close association with them.
The words of Jesus Christ regarding his coming in Kingdom glory confirm this. We read:
“When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I became hungry and you gave me something to eat; I got thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you received me hospitably; naked, and you clothed me. I fell sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous ones will answer him with the words, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and receive you hospitably, or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to you?’ And in reply the king will say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”—Matt. 25:31-40.
The “sheep” here mentioned are revealed to be different from Christ’s brothers. Yet, like Christ’s brothers, they recognize him as their “Lord” or shepherd. Both being submissive to him, both groups form just one flock. The sheep here mentioned cooperate fully with Christ’s brothers, giving active support to them. But how do they differ from Christ’s brothers?
What the King Jesus Christ said to them helps us to understand that two distinct classes are involved. His words to the “sheep” were: “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.” (Matt. 25:34) That is different from what is said of Christ’s “brothers.” The membership for the heavenly kingdom that these “brothers” were to inherit was foreknown before the “founding of the world,” that is, before the world of mankind came into being through the birth of children to the first human pair, Adam and Eve. The apostle Paul, writing to fellow Christians, states: “[God] chose us in union with [Christ] before the founding of the world.”—Eph. 1:4, 5.
The difference in the time element regarding the foreordination of the reward definitely points to two different destinies. Concerning the inheritance of Jesus’ “brothers,” the apostle Peter wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.” (1 Pet. 1:3, 4) That heavenly inheritance involves rulership, for Revelation 5:10 says: “[Christ] made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.”
But over whom will Christ’s “brothers” rule? Over mankind on earth. This is in agreement with Revelation 21:3, 4.
Not being Christ’s brothers, the “other sheep” are evidently in line for the blessings of an earth free from sorrow and death. That will be their reward under the rulership of Jesus Christ and his joint heirs. It is for this reason that they are spoken of as ‘inheriting the kingdom prepared for them from the founding of the world.’ The original Greek word for kingdom not only means a government but can also refer to “reign” or “being ruled by a kingdom.” Thus, the “other sheep” inherit the state of being ruled by the King Jesus Christ and his associate kings, his “brothers.” As soon as there began to be born to Adam and Eve children who would have an opportunity to come under Kingdom rule, God’s promise regarding such rule took effect. In this sense, the “kingdom,” that is, the state of being ruled by the kingdom, was prepared for humankind “from the founding of the world.”
The testimony of the Bible as a whole thus points to the “other sheep” as persons who will gain life on earth under the rule of God’s kingdom by Christ, whether of the “great crowd” of “tribulation” survivors or of the resurrected dead ones of mankind.—Acts 24:15.